Before you balk at the idea of a video game affecting your real-life tendencies, perhaps take into consideration that it could also save you very real money on your energy bills. According to an article in Fast Company, a strategic game called Power House was developed by researchers with the intention of users to reduce their energy consumption throughout their daily activities does just that. The premise of the game is to manage a family of four doing everyday activities like laundry, preparing meals, and yes, relieving themselvses. As each level progresses, more family members are added, making it more difficult to regulate the rate of use—if you lose control, then the circuit goes out. Game over.
But before you dismiss it, note that the January 2015 issue of Environment and Behavior released a report that people who played the game “demonstrated more energy-efficient behavior immediately afterward—both in a lab and their own homes.” In a lab at Stanford University, which the report is based off of, experimenters ran a test with one study group of 40 playing Power House and another playing Diner Dash, a game centered around food service. After 30 minutes of playing the game, researchers instructed the gamers to “close up and leave the office,” to see how they acted on the instructions. Out of the five appliances within the room, the Diner Dash gamers turned off an average of .55, versus 2.5 for those who played Power House.
To bring a more concentrated version of this study, researchers paired up with PG&E, a utility provider in California, to recruit 51 people to do a field test. Over a course of 17 days, researchers observed the reduction of energy use for those playing Power House, as well. Although there was only a two percent decrease, it’s hard to gauge whether this is entirely accurate since there were additional people living in the actual house who weren’t playing the game. As an incentive, PG&E encourages those registered with the company to play the game and sign in with their online account with a chance to win a year’s worth of free energy.